Can you imagine it; giddy man and woman immersed in the passionate throes of love making, arguably the finest experience any of us have yet to summon from our obvious limited capacities as mere mortals (some lasting longer than others). Of course, the Catholic Church breathed a more spuriously sanctified, fatuously reified oxygen than the majority of ordinary Ireland, deeming nine months later that these woman, imagine them, from the exalted heights of orgasms in Pat McCann’s barn in Abbeyleix, to the acute, the acute trembling, terrified and ultimately forcibly ostracized from their home towns, to be redeemed, yes redeemed and assisted vainly in a cold search for “atonement” for their “sins.” “Sins” presumably committed out of a lurid passion, (how dare she!) or just simply without the preventative instrument that was conspicuously made absent through a pernicious yet cunning method of subduing free and promiscuous sex by the Church, that ever so ubiquitous sheath of moist rubber, the thing we ever so take for granted, the condom (not to mention the Pill). An instrument, so simple in its duty although unpleasant in its aesthetic, which could have prevented the long, seething torment these women endured. In this search for spiritual atonement for colluding with her sexuality (how dare she!) these women were routinely denied their identities, their names were changed, they were dressed in what I’d imagine was the sartorial equivalent of painting a tarpaulin grey and sewing it into the armpits and buttocks of these women, the only skin on show being their eyelids so’s the nuns could know when they weren’t sleeping. The callous régime so brutal, it would not surprise me to learn that these women’s hair was sheared off, from head to toe, and they were made bed down on it for the night and then eat it for breakfast in the morning; a sort of grim induction ritual, again in the quest for ‘atonement’. My, what a palliative system the Church extolled! Held in captivity, their womanhood repressed, their children either chronically ill or else sold into labour or adoption, again all in the name of atonement, at a sizeable profit to the Catholic church given the number of children that were reportedly devoured by this heinous epoch. Admittedly, the charioteers of this vile cavalcade fueled by Catholic Dogma were the glamorous nuns themselves; women who began to sprout beards, their vagina’s long since voluntarily sewn up to avoid birds nesting in their matted caves, let alone even hint, or evince pleasure of any kind. No apologies to the Lord needed then. Hysterectomies were performed through telepathy, the sheer fervent devotion to their Lord caused the nun’s womb to implode and then disintegrate, falling out their caves like ash and then kept in an urn to remind them to never think about sex again, lest their breasts fall off. No; any prophylactic measures ran counter intuitive to the notion of the Catholic ideology, which obsessed calumniating and exploiting, sometimes brutally and savagely, sometimes sexually and psychologically, sometimes subtly and sometimes nastily, their deeply frightened, reluctantly acquiescent flock. What a panacea! What levels of atonement! Have your child sold into a child labour camp, committed involuntarily into a hostile borstal, or allowed die via illness, the diagnosis being howling dogmatic indolence.

It is a miracle (I use the term ironically) that as Irish people, we haven’t a deeply lugubrious disposition, a permanent and unyielding melancholia seeping from the annals of our recent local history, washing any sense of levity or conviviality away, back down in black spumes into the unmarked graves of these unknown women and children. That a rigorous, diabolical force who espoused values of purported charity and spiritual obedience can have been allowed grasp the throat of its people so forcibly, and for so long, and in such mysterious, occultist ways must rock contemporary Irish people into a real, lucid engagement with the sheer blackness of our recent history. Again, perhaps our contemporary sense of irreverence is simply a way of dealing with the sheer horror and nebulousness of it all. “Yeah, we’d rather not go there. Too dark. Here, have this line of cocaine, I’ve just reached level nine thousand on candy crush saga.”

The recent emergence of this story in which 800 babies, viewed and treated as the manifestation of mortal sin, were allowed die, or were sold into adoption in which the Church reaped the sum awarded, usually from America. This gives a different flavour to the almost now inculcated notion of Irish-American ancestry, and something whose genesis stemmed from a benevolent trust rather than an exploitative one. A flavour that lands on the pallet more like a firm jet of an incontinent sow’s hot urine (certainly second and third generation, given that this was all happening during the early-mid 20th century) which must irk viscerally even the most uninterested or dispassionate male or female given that we are constantly foisted with a projected image of an Ireland imbued with a sweet, naive and wild eyed mysticism, of a fond, approachable sort, and an American on St.Patrick’s (not Patty’s) day who wistfully recalls her grandmother who came all the way from the West, gliding across the Atlantic with a beatific radiance,spreading the ruse of the Irish idyll with every blithe footprint. This could be true, women from Galway do have reportedly beautiful feet, let it be known.

Perhaps indeed this wild eyed, genial mysticism is some sort of cunning subconscious reflex, invisibly designed to protect and to contend with the seemingly unending potent sadness of this country’s history (not to mention our fondness for a drop of the black stuff or two (it couldn’t get blacker than this says he) which is plied in its blanketed normalization as ‘the craic’), a history endured by the ordinary and the decent and created and orchestrated by a malicious and deluded patriarchy.

So… any where you can get a decent pint around here then?

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